A tunnel excavator dug into the concrete and rock at the east portal of the Caldecott Tunnel to mark the start of tunneling for the Fourth Bore Project, a four-year, $420 million project on Route 24 in the Oakland Hills.
“The project will create thousands of good paying jobs for California in the next four years,” said Federal Highway Administrator Victor Mendez, who was on hand for the press event kicking off the tunneling and was at the controls of the excavator along with Caltrans Director Cindy McKim. “And it will relieve congestion in the decades to come for hundreds of thousands of Californians.”
The project is a beneficiary of President Obama’s American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA). The injection of federal Recovery Act funds helped reinvigorate the project during the current economic downturn. According to Mendez, the tunnel project is the second largest ARRA project in the country.
The project is a partnership between Caltrans, the Contra Costa Transportation Authority and the Alameda County Congestion Management Agency. Primary funding sources include $197.5 million in federal Recovery Act dollars, $11 million in state Proposition 1B moneys, $123 million in sales tax money from Contra Costa County and $50 million in Regional Measure 2 (RM 2) bridge toll moneys. Of the total, MTC directed some $157 million to the project, including the $50 million in RM 2 funds.
The project will reduce congestion on State Route 24 by building a fourth tunnel bore as part of the Caldecott Tunnel, linking Orinda to Oakland. Upon completion, the new northern bore and the existing northern bore will carry westbound traffic, while the two southern bores will carry eastbound traffic.
“The new configuration will eliminate the need to reverse the traffic direction in the existing center bore twice a day to accommodate morning and evening commuters,” said McKim.
Also on hand was MTC Commissioner Amy Worth, who is also an Orinda City Council member. “This project is a reality because of the vision and commitment to it from everyone, from the voters of Contra Costa County and the Bay Area, all the way to the governor of California,” she said.
Acting as MC for the event was Caltrans District 4 Director Bijan Sartipi, who also sits on MTC’s Commission. Noting the many years of planning that led up to the start of construction, he said simply, “Today we dig.”
The fourth bore is scheduled to open in late 2013.